Tallinn based Gateme won at the latest SeedCamp event, which shows just how strong the ArcticStartup region really is. For some reason each time somebody wins at Seedcamp, it forces me to wonder what it really means to the company. Now in case I am not alone in forgetting how the Seedcamp process works, I will quickly tell you just what Gateme got themselves into.
Basically the way Seedcamp works is first you apply for having a chance to pitch at one of their worldwide events, such as the one that took place in London. This time around there were over 400 applications from 46 countries. Then a number of those are selected for a full day mentoring event where the top 5 are selected. Gateme was one of those Top 5.
I find it interesting to follow what Seedcamp and the other big European accelerators are doing. It's useful to see what the trends are, and I also enjoy selfishly finding hot new services to check out before my friends. The following list has been invited to the Seedcamp London event, including three startups from the ArcticStartup region: Actual Reports and GateMe from Tallinn, and Together from Gothenburg.
Here's a quick drill-down of the local teams, followed by the full list of accepted teams.
The New York Times recently ran a piece on the psychology of waiting, and pointed out that what's important is not the amount of time we're actually waiting, but how we perceive the wait. Deep down we all know this, but we stare at the LED board with blank stares, counting down how much longer it's going to take.
Rauno Rüngas, CEO of Qminder, claims that what makes waiting in lines so frustrating is the anxiety and anticipation that comes with having to wait in a fixed location. To update the "take a ticket machine" Qminder has released a tablet and phone solution that offers more precise information about where you are in line and how much longer it will likely take.
Every now and then a company will come along seemingly just to remind you that "the future" is here already, sort of. Helsinki-based Sayduck is one of those companies, and has created an innovative new service to allow users to shop for and pick out furniture using augmented reality.
The iPhone and iPad app lets shoppers virtually visualize objects in their homes from any angle, providing the obvious benefits of seeing how furniture looks in your room and fits your decor. And after competing last month in Tallinn, Sayduck announces it has been accepted to the London-based Seedcamp incubator.
Yandex, Russia's largest search engine, has invested an undisclosed amount in Seedcamp, the London-based incubator. Seedcamp's sponsors include internet giants like Google, Microsoft, and PayPal, but this is the first time a major company has hopped on board as an investor. The company therefore gains an indirect share in all of the participating countries, and will participate in the selection of the startups.
On Wednesday, some 100+ people met in Estonia to help startups develop their businesses further in a Seedcamp Tallinn event. Seedcamp's Carlos Eduardo Espinal said that it is about time the organisation came to Estonia as 6 of their investments are from just Estonia and even more from Eastern Europe. I joined the event as an observer, but also as a mentor to give my feedback to the companies.
I find myself at the venue, Tallinn's IT College, around 10 and immediately begin to wonder what makes this place so special that they have two secret service type guys directing traffic in the parking lot.
As I walk into the auditorium, I find it packed with only a few vacant seats here and there. A really good crowd, not only in numbers, but also in terms of their background and experience.
As a woman in the startup community, Dalia Lasaite says she hasn't encountered any serious obstacles due to her gender, and even suggests the opposite: "Starting a company is always hard, whoever you are. But I find that women actually get more visibility and stand out easier as the tech community is made of men - so this is the advantage of being a woman entrepreneur."
Lasaite got into entrepreneurship in 2007, right after finishing her studies. After a bit of brainstorming co-founded the ride sharing website Geogoer, which seems to have closed down. At this time she was only working on the project part-time while simultaneously starting to work at an asset management company. But after playing around with that project for a while, the team got an investment from the Difference Engine accelerator, and Lasaite quit her corporate job.
Seedcamp London is kicking off this week, and with it they announced for this round they've received a record number of applications and are hosting a record number of teams. For those who aren't familiar with the program, Seedcamp is a European startup incubator that employs many of the same principles as Silicon Valley's famous Y Combinator startup incubator. Of the selected 22 companies, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia are each represented with one company who will compete to win the London event. Winners will receive a year long support with mentors, and Seedcamp will invest around €50000 for 8-10% in the winning companies.
Garage48 Tartu winner Qminder became part of the Seedcamp family last week after winning a Mini Seedcamp event in Prague. Qminder is the second team from the 48-hour hackathon to join the prestigious startup accelerator program in a short period of time.
Mini Seedcamp NY will be held on June 14th at Google's New York offices. The 20 selected companies come from various parts of the globe: Brazil, Canada, Poland, Israel, Germany, UK, Austria, Romania... Three of those 20 start-ups are from the Nordic and Baltic region. Namely, Campalyst from Latvia, Planeto from Sweden (Malmö) and SurveyLegend also from Sweden (Lund). Together with the other teams they would compete for the access to Seedcamp's world-class network of mentors and advisors, for a direct route to seed and venture capital and, of course, for the prestige of being recognized as the best start-up in the region.
Seedcamp is coming up Stockholm on May 4th to find the gems of the region and connect them to investors and other people that can help them go forward. "We've seen a very strong group of startups coming out of the Nordics, and especially the technically focused teams are impressive", Philipp Moehring from Seedcamp stated. We recently covered GrabCad's success in winning both Seedcamp London and being accepted into TechStars, which should be a sign to everyone that the talent required is very much present at the region.
Seedcamp has just announced earlier today about their launch of a new service, seedsummit, which is aimed to help startups find investors more easily. It's in short, the AngelList for the rest of us. Seedsummit has no specific geographic focus and it has angels listed from Africa, Asia, Europe, Nordics and Baltics to name a few. While there are only a few names listed, I'm sure it will supply a need in demand.
A year ago we wrote about a new copy-editing start-up from Denmark - Wordy. Since then Wordy released its product from beta, won Seedcamp this autumn and moved to UK. I talked with Anders Schepelern, founder and CEO, who shared insights from his entrepreneurial journey.
Let us remind you that Wordy offers human copy-editing of any English document at a small price and high speed. They claim to be able to process any text of 400 words in 15-20 min at any time of the day. The service was launched as a commercial product from day one: editing 400 words costs 7-8€. All revenue is split 80/20 between editors and Wordy, which means that an average editor gets an hourly wage of around 23€. Since Wordy's competitive advantage is high-quality human edge to editing (40% of the editors have a Master's degree or higher), offering a decent pay is the key to hiring and retaining the workforce. It seems to be paying off too: customer satisfaction of the service is in the top ten percentiles at the moment.
Limited Partners or LPs, the people or institutional investors who invest their money in venture funds, are pulling away and the European investment climate is going from bad to worse. This is on one hand because of the dismal returns that the funds have generated and on the other hand because of the bloated management fees that some VCs collect without working much for their portfolio companies or for new deal flow.
Even if the general investment climate in Europe is getting darker Seedcamp is determined to make the early stage investing work in Europe. I talked with Reshma Sohoni, CEO of Seedcamp, at the Copenhagen Mini-Seedcamp about Seedcamp's past, present and future and what value they can offer for startups coming from the Nordics and Baltics.
Seedcamp model is to invest €50,000 in early stage startups in return for some 10 percent of equity. Beyond just the capital, they aim to connect entrerpeneurs with the best mentors across Europe, UK and US.
Seedcamp, the European seed investment program that originated in London has opened its Nordic Mini Seedcamp for applications. This year the Mini Seedcamp takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark 27th May 2010.
Mini Seedcamp Copenhagen is a one day event aiming to connect the 20 best web-tech, mobile and software startups with some of the leading entrepreneurs, developers, and experts from the European tech ecosystem.
Last year Seedcamp's Nordic event took place in Helsingborg, Sweden and attracted a decent line-up of startups. That said, there is definitely room for more quality applicants, not least from Finland. You can see our coverage from last year here.
On the face of it startup events might look like bunch of geeks listening to talks that provide little or no value over what can be obtained with an Internet connection and an ability to read.
Wrong! It's not what happens on-stage but off-stage that matters. This is where grown men talk tech, drink imported beer and meet the most important people of their startup lives. This is where you get to know the people. And its the people you know that will make the difference between a success and a failure.
Yes, your product's traction may play a role, but a few emails to the right people do wonders when you are running out of money, haven't slept for days and are fighting windmills to close the one deal that means the difference between life and death. This is while at the same time Facebook is busy stealing your CTO right when your servers can't cope with the increased traffic. That's when knowing the right people come handy.
Erply, an Estonian startup specialising in providing a wide range of core business services to companies, has received a whopping $2 million in funding from Redpoint, Index Ventures, Marten Mickos, Zack Urlocker, Kenny van Zant, Aydin Senkut, David McClure and the Accelerator Group. The one year old company (founded 2009) has more than 2000 business customers and 8000 users. It is currently profitable with approximately 20% growth each month, according to TechCrunch.
There's been a lot of talk lately about angel investing or the lack of thereof, and I think the time is finally ripe for it to raise its head here in the Nordics and Baltics.
I just recently talked to Petteri Koponen of Lifeline Ventures, who came back from the first SeedSummit that took place in London and was put together by the good people at Seedcamp. It's a new initiative that twice a year brings together a critical mass of Europe’s most active seed investors to try and establish a stronger, more cohesive network to support entrepreneurs across the continent.
We welcome the initiative. If its needed generally in Europe, the Nordics and Baltics are literally screaming for such an initiative.
The other angel investor coming from our neck of the woods who was present was who else than the other Jaiku co-founder, Jyri Engeström. Other angels present included Jeff Clavier, Martin Varsavsky, Brent Hoberman, Lukasz Gadowski, Stefan Glaenzer, Dave McClure, Andy Philips, William Reeve, Robin Klein and Sherry Coutu. A hefty list.
There's been a lot of talk lately about all kinds of accelerators and Y Combinator like set-ups in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Most recently Aalto Entrepreneurship Society announced that they are in the process of building their own 'Y Combinator', although this would be directed only to Aalto University, which really makes it a university incubator.
Just as much there has been discussion on whether Seedcamp model or Y Combinator like model is the better one (Y Combinator leading the pack at the moment), the respective differences and most importantly whether you need to be a Paul Graham to make it work. And even the workings of Y Combinator model has been under strong scrutiny by those who don't believe before they see the first major exit.
Erply, one of the winners of Seedcamp, a company we covered a few weeks ago had a good experience visiting the competition. I talked to Kristjan Randma again, after they got back from London on what was the biggest take on the experience itself that others could learn from. It seems that this year, a lot of focus was being put on monetisation an business models.
Erply, an Estonian web startup, is the only company to make it to Seedcamp from the Nordics and Baltics. But what a great idea that Erply has, despite being a tiny company with only 4 employees. The company is actually working to create a single solution for small retailers and service companies to handle all their daily operations. Daily operations include everything from handling your inventory, having a digital cash register, billing and accounting software.
bluewalks, a Stockholm based web startup, won the SeedRocket startup competition in July in Barcelona, earning them a seed investment of EUR 20,000 and a 6-month stay in Barcelona Activa Incubator with further mentoring. The service of bluewalks allows creating and sharing of walking tours.
SeedRocket is a Spanish startup event/competition, somewhat similar to more widely known Seedcamp. bluewalks was one of the 12 teams selected to the event from over 100 international applications. SeedRocket consists of training workshops and discussions lead by successful Spanish web entrepreneurs, and participants also get mentors' comments on their business plan. In the end, the teams deliver a pitch to mentors, investors, and the SeedRocket team.
bluewalk's CEO Cristobal Viedma commented the company currently has around 30% of their traffic coming from Asia, and over 700 walking tours created to date. bluewalks is currently working on an iPhone app, launching free beta at the end of the summer, and premium version planned to launch by December. The app should allow downloading maps and tours directly into the phone before the trip or for example at hotel using wifi prior to heading for a walking tour, but also providing online location-based information when wanted. bluewalks has also released an API that according to Cristobal 2 other startups are using already.
bluewalks plans to monetize their service by licensing their technology to local tourism boards, and others wanting to offer the service for free to all the travelers in the location. The company is also trying to create a brand among travelers by advertising and giving away merchandising in different hostels and events, while also having an online store for purchases.
Mini Seedcamp Helsingborg was held today in the Southern Sweden together with Öresund Entrepreneurship Academy. The region is growing and has an active ecosystem of entrepreneurship and startups, suiting well the Seedcamp initative. The event gathered 20 excited startups and over 50 mentors from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and England.
The day was kicked off with five minute pitches by the teams, and included buzz words such as cloud computing, crowdsourcing and smartphone applications. The pitches were overall above the average, but as Tommy Ahlers, a mentor from ZYB, reflected, the early stage startups preferably need to focus on the concept rather than trying to present a business plan.
Saul Klein, the founder of Seedcamp and a partner in Index Ventures, had a little chat with Ville in Le Web about the current economic downturn and what that means for startups. There's a lot that we agree with, for example the focus on the business model - if investors aren't paying you, the customers have to be. Cash is king in times of despair and you need it from someone.
Like always, comments are more than welcome.
Saplo's founder and CEO Mattias Tyrberg tipped us that Saplo, the Swedish semantic text processing technology firm, and a winner of Seedcamp, is going to participate in two VC events in California (previous coverage of Saplo). While in the area, Mattias and Fredrik Hörte from Saplo will also visit a few big firms like Google and Facebook, and look for other potential partners, customers, and investors.
The first event is Mini Seedcamp, which aims to give the startups a chance to meet face-to-face with the local startup and investor scene, and discuss anything from their product to investments. Seedcamp hopes to give the Valley folks better understanding of European startups, and show the participating European startups the US entrepreneurship culture in action, and help them connect with advisors and mentors.
Another event is organized by Invest in Sweden Agency North America (ISA). ISA has gathered a delegation of 20 Swedish early stage wireless, IT, electronics, and internet startups seeking risk capital, and takes them in front of some of the biggest VC firms in the US. The event takes place tomorrow November 11th in Menlo Park, CA. ISA is reporting to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and markets Sweden, its industry clusters, funds and individual businesses to North American companies and investors.
TechCrunch UK just reported (here) that Spotify, a Swedish startup offering a lightweight software application enabling on demand streaming of music, is rumoured to have raised €15m round (massive €71.6m pre-money valuation) from a Scandinavian VC fund Northzone Ventures.
As TechCrunch UK commented "Northzone themselves have declined to comment, but Creandum, another of Sweden’s top VCs, is also understood to have taken part in the funding round."
ArcticStartup met Creandum at Seedcamp in London and a partner at Creandum told us that he is very excited about Spotify when we asked what are the most interesting Swedish startups at the moment. On the face of it this would support the rumor, even though we can't confirm it either.
I interviewed Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK on the European startup ecosystem and how he sees it versus the US one while I was visiting Seedcamp in London. I told Mike that we need to make entrepreneurship sexier here in Europe and get more role models for students and young guns to look up to. See what Mike told me and what he thinks of the Scandi startup scene in particular.
We will be discussing the state of the European startup scene here in Helsinki tomorrow night at the ArcticEvening (see more here). Come meet the local startup scene and enjoy a laid-back evening with us.
Seedcamp winners have been announced just a few hours ago in London. This year 7 companies were picked for a 50k€ investment and a three month mentoring period. The winners this year are:
uberVU: Tracking comments on your social media content
Kyko: Casual gaming inside MSN / Live Messenger
Basekit - Make building complex webapplications easy.
Soup.io - Personal publishing on the web made easy
Toksta - Provide instant messaging systems for social networks
Mobclix - Iphone analytics
StupeFlix - Smart video slideshows from photographs
Via The Next Web
Neither Scred nor Saplo made it all the way to the winners' table this year, but I'm sure they have experienced a lot of valuable things that will take them far next year.
Edit: Here's TechCrunchUK's take on the Seedcamp 08 winners.
I chatted with Saplo's CEO, Mattias Tyrberg, this morning just before they were going to present to the investors at the Seedcamp final. Mattias told me that they were ready for the challenge. We will find out whether they made it and got the investment on Friday morning. Here's our previous coverage on Saplo. Good luck to the whole team.
Even though Scred is surely familiar for most of our readers I had a chat with Kristoffer Lawson of Scred since I promised earlier on that I'd interview all the Nordic & Baltic startups that'll apply to Seedcamp.
I ask Kristoffer for a quick pitch and then talk more generally about the experience in Seedcamp just before the final pitches to the room full of investors on Thursday morning. Good luck guys!